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Notre Dame College Wins Fall DIAA

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Notre Dame College Wins Fall DIAA

Photo Sophie Harris.

Notre Dame College has booked a place in the 2016-17 national DIAA final with a nicely balanced defeat of Bowling Green State University Sunday morning.

The game, held at Furman University in Greenville, NC, was the USA Rugby Fall DIAA final, and the winner is slated to meet the Spring, 2017 DIAA winner in May.

With a staunch defense, and some serious quick-strike ability, Notre Dame College defeated Bowling Green 39-17 to take the fall title.

Bowling Green started the game on the front foot and pushed into the NDC 22 in the opening minutes. But, in the middle of a promising backline move, BGSU gave up an interception to Roniel Reynolds, and the big wing powered over 80 meters to score the opening try of the day.

A second time, NDC turned Bowling Green pressure into a try the other way. The ball was dropped in the BGSU midfield and Rodney Thomas booted it downfield. Reynolds and Cory Graham chased after it and eventually Graham gathered the ball and touched it down. Having had the run of play, for the first ten minutes or so, Bowling Green was down 10-0.

Once NDC got the ball, they started to show a pattern of play that combined the power of prop Alec Janotka, lock Spencer Duncan, and flanker Cian Grandon with the shiftiness of Graham and an impressive backline.

It was a series of phases that set up a good line for Grandon, who charged through an arm tackle, and dragged a couple of other BG players with him over the line.

Up 17-0, NDC ran the phases some more, getting center Zach Forro increasingly involved, and with Logan Weinstock working quickly from the scrumhalf position, they got Grandon in for another. 

That made it 24-0, and while Bowling Green did get a Nick Ross penalty goal before halftime, they were simply stymied.

In the second half, the Notre Dame College defense continued to frustrate Bowling Green. Hard hits forced mistakes in the backline, and among the forwards, despite a lot of hard work from flanker Ryan Steinmetz and props AJ Geoghean and and Sean McFarlan, they couldn’t make too much ground.

And when they did, fullback Marcus Tupuola was there to punish them. He ran, slotted in at flyhalf, and he kicked, repeatedly getting Notre Dame College on the front foot.

With Forro continually testing the Bowling Green defense in the second half, they added a penalty from Weinstock and Thomas set up Charles Winn for a nice-looking score.

Down 34-3 Bowling Green did a better job of controlling the ball and hooker Phil Bryant powered over the line. Adam Guerra answered and then Bowling Green got one more. But they couldn’t break through when they needed to, and those early scoring opportunities, plus two more that went begging, hurt them.

BGSU still has some good performances, with Mitch Sora at scrumhalf doing plenty of good work, and Bryant, and the locks Zakkery Root and Allen Viancourt working hard.

But NDC had a series of huge games. Grandon was the offensive powerhouse and Cullen Barelka the defensive powerhouse at flanker. John Santiago got around the field and put in full day’s work at hooker. And Tupuola was the best player on the day and the game MVP.

Bowling Green v Notre Dame College
BGSU flyhalf Nick Ross looks for some help.

Santiago said getting back to the national final in May was big.

“The majority of the guys have been here since the beginning, including myself, going from DIII all the way up to now, and to be able to get back to this level means a lot,” said Santiago. “We wanted to show everyone that we are meant to be [in the final] and we did earn this.”

Many of the players recognized that the two early turnover tries set the tone.

“Some people are going to call that luck, but we call it capitalization,” said Santiago. “At thise level, good teams are going to take that and flush it, and I think Bowling Green did a hell of a job of putting that aside and coming back.”

“It was all about defense,” said Head Coach Jason Fox. “Those early chances Bowling Green needed those chances and not capitalizing was not good for them. We started imposing our structure, and I always stress that good things happen with defense, and that’s true.”


Notre Dame College 39

Tries: Reynolds, Graham, Grandon 2, Winn, Guerra

Convs: Weinstock 3

Pens: Weinstock


Starting lineup: 1. Alec Janotka, 2. John Santiago, 3. Khalid Williams, 4. Spencer Duncan (c), 5. Matthew Smith, 6. Cian Grandon, 7. Cullen Barelka, 8. Andrew Guerra, 9. Logan Weinstock, 10. Cory Graham, 11. Charles Winn, 12. Zach Forro, 13. Rodney Thomas, 14. Roneil Reynolds, 15. Marcus Tupuola


Bowling Green 17

Tries: Bryant, Labadie

Convs: Ross 2

Pens: Ross

Starting lineup: 1 Sean McFarland. 2 Philip Bryant, 3 AJ Geoghean , 4 Zakkery Root, 5 Allen Viancourt, 6 Ryan Steinmetz, 

7 Niall McNamara, 8 Alex Cranmer, 9 Mitch Sora, 10 Nick Ross (c), 11 Bobby Kiskin, 12 Adam Regini, 13 Griffen Palmer, 14 Adam Kubicki, 15 Cole Shaffer